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Carnegie unveils renovation designs

Friday, May 23, 2003

By Timothy McNulty, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh released final designs yesterday for its massive interior renovation of the main branch in Oakland.

The redesign of the main branch of the Carnegie Library includes a comprehensive signage and electronic information display system and a centralized customer services station on the first floor. A new coffee bar will carry merchandise such as the library's Remember Pittsburgh Collection and used books. (EDGE studio)

Starting this summer, the library plans to start a $2.8 million restructuring of the inside of the 1895 building that transforms the first floor of the branch and rearranges collections on the second and third floors.

About 1 million books and 2 million other items will be moved within the building in a project that will take more than a year to complete.

Library officials said the changes are being made to make the building more comfortable and easier to use. On the first floor they will add an outdoor reading deck and courtyard, a coffee shop, a new elevator, new signs and sections for new books, music and films. A new area designed for teens will be marked by a screen showing teen-oriented video images.

"If we called it the teen area, there wouldn't be any teens there," library representative Craig Dunham joked to Pittsburgh City Council at a hearing yesterday.

On the second floor, library holdings will be centralized, rather than broken into departments as they are now. A central information desk will serve all subjects, and the book stacks will be reorganized and expanded along the A-Z system used by the Library of Congress, rather than the Dewey Decimal System.

Previously unused space - a portion of the interior "T" shape of the original main library building - will become an outdoor reading deck and courtyard. (EDGE studio)

The library plans to stay open throughout the construction period. But due to state cuts of $2.5 million from the Carnegie Library's operating budget this year, the main branch and other libraries citywide will be cutting their hours. The main branch will not be open on Sundays, for instance.

"There's an irony and sadness that we're here today," library director Herb Elish told council.

The construction is funded through a bond issue supported by tax funds from the Allegheny Regional Asset District.

Design concepts and floor plans for the renovation project were posted yesterday on the library's Web site, www.carnegielibrary.org. The plans are found under the heading "Capital Improvements."

Yesterday's hearing was required by the city's lease agreement with the library for the main building. Council's approval of the plans is not required.

Two speakers -- Glenn Walsh of Mt. Lebanon and David Tessitor of West Oakland -- complained that the designs were not made available before the session, saying they could not effectively comment on plans they had not seen.

In related news, city planners said yesterday that they are interviewing four architectural firms June 13 to redesign the Schenley Plaza parking lot adjacent to the library into a public park. Planning Director Susan Golomb would not identify the firms, but said both local and national firms are involved.

The comments on the parking plaza came during a separate public hearing on a 10-year master plan for the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh. The master plan covers long-term museum expansion plans for a new museum entrance, a dinosaur hall and other changes that will all require separate public approvals before they can be built.

Tim McNulty can be reached at tmcnulty@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1542.

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